Shaping the digital transformation
The paper industry is facing major challenges. The current price level is forcing paper manufacturers to reduce production costs and further optimize the efficiency of their equipment.
At the same time, the digital transformation offers huge potential, as new technologies allow significant improvements to be made to existing and new facilities. Digitalization therefore plays a key role in reconciling ecological and economic requirements. But how can the digital transformation process be shaped, and what are the resulting prospects for paper manufacturers and the industry?
The current paper production supply chain has evolved over many years, and paper machines now have a very long service life. Great optimization potential therefore lies in the functional extension of existing solutions by means of digitalization.
“By digitizing our product portfolio through Papermaking 4.0, we can offer our customers exactly what they want: a machine that produces paper in the most profitable way – during startup, but above all, throughout its entire life cycle,” explains Abraham. One example of how this optimization potential is being tapped into is the new digital generation of DuoShake, the DuoShake DG (Digital Generation).
DuoShake DG records actual operating times and provides real-time data on maintenance intervals and service life of the most important machine components. Because the operating condition is known at all times, maintenance can be planned and scheduled more efficiently. “With DuoShake DG, we are turning time-based maintenance into needs-based maintenance and in doing so are extending the service life of the product,” explains Benjamin Kitze, Director Global Service & Product Management at Voith Paper, who has driven the further development of the shaking unit.
Alongside data transparency, which is based on a digitalized product base, digitalization also offers other opportunities that have not yet been fully exploited, especially with respect to the interaction between suppliers and customers. Digital solutions offer genuine added value to paper manufacturers and can deliver significant cost reductions.
“One example is remote video support OnCall.Video, allowing customers to quickly access expert Voith knowledge from any location. Across the board, this results in even better machine efficiency and availability,” says Abraham. Apart from linking the customer with Voith, the remote video support has another decisive advantage: Paper manufacturers can connect their various plants to allow their specialists to work together quickly and easily regardless of the distances involved.
Another example is the Voith Paper Webshop. Since early 2017, the Webshop has been helping industrial clients find and order the right spare and wear parts out of tens of thousands of components. The online shop is open around the clock seven days a week. More than 100 companies are making use of this e-commerce option from the Servolution portfolio. Voith has now updated the Webshop to offer an even greater degree of personalization, with new functions and an intuitive user interface. Because the paper industry has recognized how the Webshop helps to reduce the administrative effort necessary for procurement, Thoma has for some time now been thinking beyond the mere product level. “In the future, we also want to offer repairs and on-site services.”
With reduced administrative effort thanks to a digital shopping basket, data transparency and performance improvements via digital product solutions, digitalization is already having a fundamental impact on the paper industry and will continue to do so.
“The priority for our customers is still optimum machine performance. We can achieve this through efficient processes and intelligent product solutions,” Abraham explains. “Nevertheless, employee knowledge remains an important factor for the success of our customers, even in an era of digitalization. We therefore exploit the benefits of digital technologies, for example, to train specialist personnel. Our experience in this area has shown that paper manufacturers benefit from digital and virtual training options, because they enable servicing jobs to be optimized and downtimes reduced.”
The training packages include virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) applications that allow trainees to conduct complicated service tasks. The VR applications used by the Voith PaperSchool, for example, provide an immersive environment for learning experiences that would not be possible in real life. When participants put on the headset, they dive into the virtual world of the paper machine and are safely guided through various tasks.
The confinement of VR increases efficiency for the trainee. In contrast to a real plant, even untrained personnel can also work through potentially dangerous training exercises. What’s more, it is possible to embed safety issues within a routine task that appears quite safe on the surface. This increases general awareness of safety issues. More effective training not only helps improve safety in paper mills but also increases machine availability and productivity.